In what could be seen as one of the strongest sanctions against the company in Europe, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which is tasked with enforcing data protection legislation in the UK, has today announced its provisional intent to issue a potential fine of £17 million against the controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI.
Clearview AI, which only received worldwide attention following a New York Times report back in January 2020, is a company whose business model relies on scraping billions of publicly available images from the web. These images are then stored indefinitely in a database and the facial features of the people depicted in them are extracted and hashed. Clearview AI then sells access to the database to its clients, who have reportedly ranged from private companies or employers to law enforcement authorities and police across the world, and who are able to use the software to identify faces. Due to their extremely intrusive nature, facial recognition systems, and particularly any business model that seeks to rely on them, raises serious concerns for modern societies and individuals’ freedoms.